Vettel: We’re doing better than expected


Sebastian Vettel believes that the Red Bull team is doing better than expected as the Formula 1 circus arrives in Malaysia ahead of next weekend’s race in Kuala Lumpur.

Vettel retired from the Australian Grand Prix after just three laps due to an engine problem, meaning that his hopes of winning a record-breaking tenth straight grand prix were soon dashed. Despite Red Bull coming away from Melbourne with zero points following Daniel Ricciardo’s disqualification, Vettel is still pleased with the team’s position heading to the Malaysian Grand Prix given the struggles it endured in the pre-season tests.

“We still have a lot of work to do with the car but it was encouraging to see that our pace was better than expected in Australia,” Vettel explained. “Hopefully we can build on that and start collecting some strong points in the next two races.”

The team had been well behind the front-running teams during testing, but responded in great fashion down under as Ricciardo rallied to finish the race in second place, only to be disqualified for a fuel irregularity.

Vettel will return to the site of the infamous ‘Multi 21’ debacle that occurred at last year’s Malaysian Grand Prix, where he deliberately ignored team orders to seize victory from teammate Mark Webber. However, the German driver is focusing on dealing with the unique challenges that the Sepang International Circuit poses.

“Looking to the track, the two overtaking possibilities are the first corner and before the last corner, which in both cases is after a long straight; my favourite corners are five and six,” he said.

“Beside the challenge of the circuit, you have to cope with the tropical heat. We can be driving in humidity of up to 90%, while big thunderstorms in the afternoon are not uncommon.”

With the race being held in monsoon season, wet weather usually hits the track at some point during the race weekend. In 2009, the weather was so bad that the race had to be red flagged after just 31/56 laps, with Jenson Button being declared the winner and receiving half-points.

Ferrari teammates Vettel and Raikkonen fastest in rainy final practice at Australian GP

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen went one-two in the final practice session ahead of qualifying at the water-logged Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Vettel set a best-lap time of 1 minute, 26.067 seconds, more than 2.4 seconds faster than his teammate in second.

Both Ferrari drivers switched from their intermediate tires to the super-fast, ultra-soft tires for the final few laps of the session, testing conditions on the track after a day-long downpour left it slick and filled with small puddles.

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton did not opt to try out their soft tires, sticking to the intermediates for the entire session. They had the seventh- and eighth-fastest times, after topping the leaderboard in practice in dry conditions on Friday.

The heavy rains subsided by early afternoon, allowing the track to rapidly dry during the third practice session and making conditions safe for drivers to test their soft tires.

Still, only a few drivers completed a timed lap with the softer compounds, with Mercedes, Red Bull and most of the others staying with their intermediates.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson had the third-fastest time of the session on ultrasoft tires, followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on intermediates.

Hamilton remains the favorite to capture his fifth straight pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in qualifying later Saturday. He had the fastest laps on ultrasoft tires in the two practice sessions on Friday, though Verstappen was right behind him.

Verstappen and Vettel both slid on the slick track early in the third practice session, but maintained control and completed their runs without incident.

Verstappen’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, had the sixth-fastest time of the session. The Australian’s chances of winning his fifth career Grand Prix on his home track in Melbourne took a hit late Friday when he was assessed a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

The Australian driver was penalized for driving too fast under red-flag conditions during Friday’s second practice session because of debris on the track.